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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

“Night Monkey: Far from Home” is heaps fun!

Night monkey! Hehe.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is like a dessert you get to enjoy at the end of a long satisfying meal. It is the perfect way to round up the Avengers series, and especially after “Avengers Endgame” which I wasn’t a huge fan of and reminded me of “The Leftovers” TV series with its over-mopping about the snap and the people who disappeared.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” is fun. Loads of fun. Makes great use of the fact that Spider-Man/ Peter Parker is a kid who is still in high school and is going through all that high school entails – high school romance, crushes, other boys vying for the girl you love, etc. It also pays great tribute to the Marvel heroes from the opening credits itself with the Whitney Houston song and fun slide show. This feels like a movie firmly set in the Avengers universe and created to round up things in a fun way.

I especially loved the way they toyed with us viewers with the whole multi verse thing in the trailer. I mean, wow, that was something! The first time I saw the trailer I thought “cool, Mysterio the villain”. There were questions about how they are going to bring his character to on-screen as he was into special effects etc. Then the second trailer came out and that hinted at Mysterio being a good guy and this movie being about multi-verses. There were theories in the Internet about how Captain America not returning the stones to the exact moment might have caused a split in the universe, and the fun possibilities that could entail etc. To me it didn’t make sense why the movie makers would put out this big plot point in the trailer itself and take out the fun of discovering it in the movie… but whatever. And then I saw the movie today and all questions got answered. Special effects literally. A layer of distraction upon distraction. All of it now makes sense. Brilliant! :)

As an added plus if the movie wasn’t fun enough already the two post credit scenes add to it. The last one explained a lot of plot holes for me – like why was Nick Fury so dependent on Spider-Man even though the latter was busy. And the first post credits scene sets things up for the next installment, with Spider-Man’s identity being revealed. I wonder how they will take that. Maybe have Peter Parker deny it all of course and have an Iron Man Spider-Man suit pretend to be the real Spider-Man next to it? Who knows! Fun stuff.

Thank you Sony/ Marvel/ Jon Watts for creating this fun dessert of a movie!

Game of Thrones

I did it! Over the course of the last two weeks me and wife binge watched the entire Game of Thrones – all 8 seasons! I had seen season 1 and part of season 2 when it was released but decided then to skip watching any more coz it seemed like a good story and I wanted to binge watch it at once to have a good feel for it, and also coz many TV shows start off good and then become bad or get cancelled… leaving all your emotions and feelings for it without a closure.

Anyways, Game if Thrones was a fun watch up to the last 2-3 episodes of Season 8 (the final season). I loved the battle seasons (especially the Battle of the Bastards) and slow pacing but was put off when they decided to suddenly portray Daenerys as a crazy person who torched a whole city. That didn’t gel with her character and it felt a bit forced. Added to that Jon is suddenly a Targaryen and he mills her but doesn’t want the throne and is then exiled etc… pointless.

I guess the whole of Game of Thrones is about the children of the forest (and whatever else is out there) waging a secret war against the King of the Night and the humans while using the humans. They took over Bran basically and used him to drive a wedge between Jon and Daenerys thus ensuring neither won. Bran wasn’t really Bran by the end and he the became the king of all men. He could have helped Daenerys by ensuring Misandei not get caught (considering he can see everything) but he didn’t. He ensured she is caught and killed and war and craziness ensues. He manipulated things such that he becomes king, and even admitted to it when he was offered the role (but it was glossed over). Even at the end he only seemed interested in the dragon in the last small council meeting, not humans.

A great show. It will be missed. Sucky finale aside. Great writing, direction, music, story… excellent stuff.

Photograph (Movie)

I watched Photograph (a Bollywood movie) all the while thinking to myself why am I watching this. It’s a romantic drama, very well taken, but unbelievable too in that it’s the story of a middle class girl going out with a random photographer dude she met near India Gate. She liked the photo he took, and he lied to his grandma that he is going out with this girl (so she stops pestering him about getting married), so she agrees to be with him in front of the visiting grandma to keep her happy. That doesn’t make sense to me. If I were a girl, I can’t imagine agreeing to go with a street photographer (or any stranger guy for that matter, but even more so a random street person) just for the heck of it. There’s so much stories about rape and all that, I’d be scared shit for my life. Of course, it’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui, so yeah … why not, when watching the movie your mind is like sure it’s possible … but I wonder how I’d feel if it was a totally unknown actor playing that role. That would have been more authentic and made believing the story even more difficult. 

Anyways, that out of my chest, Photograph is a wonderful movie. I really enjoyed it. Things I liked: 1) the camera work, the way they captured Mumbai and the environment and the family … just the angles and the crowd … everything. It’s just beautiful, there’s an art to it, you must watch the movie just for that if nothing else; 2) the way the story is taken, it’s very sweet, very subtle and cute one could say …nothing over done here, just two people getting to know each other and slowly falling in love. They don’t even express their love, nor does the movie claim to be anything different to other movies of a similar story … it’s just nice. A fresh take on the same old story, with no pretense that it is anything else. 

What I didn’t like is the fact that I always had in my head that this is kind of unbelievable, plus the question of what’s going to inevitably happen with the family knowing etc. Interestingly the movie didn’t go into that at all but just ended on a self-referential note … which was both smart and irritating coz it feels like there’s been no conclusion to the story. I liked the end but also felt dissatisfied. 

Special mention to the person who played the grandma. She was amazing. As was all the other characters in the movie actually. The girl Sanya Malhotra, all of Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s friends … Mumbai itself! A good watch. 

Batman vs Superman

I saw “Batman vs Superman: Dawn for Justice” for the second time today. It was on Netflix and while I didn’t enjoy it much when I saw it the first time (when it was released in the theaters) I thought I’d give it a go anyways. Good decision coz I absolutely loved it!

The first time when I saw it I found the movie pointless. Why were Batman and Superman fighting? Why was Batman so angry about things. Why was Lex bent on creating misunderstandings between them. Why was everything so intentionally dark and gloomy. So many things I didn’t like!

This second time however, I saw the movie in a different light. There’s a drama to it, a certain “theater”… like in a play or even like Zack Snyder’s own “300”. When I saw this movie the first time I still had the Christopher Nolan Batman in my head and so I wanted a grounded movie. I didn’t want “cinema” I just wanted a character driven Batman and Superman movie. But that’s not what “Batman vs Superman” is about and I am surprised I missed the whole point in the first viewing!

Or maybe I have changed since that viewing. I know for instance many audiobooks I enjoyed (or not) the first time around sometimes being out the opposite reaction in me on a second hearing. Maybe this ones like that. Maybe this time I was more open and attuned to the iconography in this movie.

“Batman vs Superman” is in the difficult position of being an in between movie. We have no backstory for Bruce Wayne short of the intro sequence and all we know is that he has been doing this for a long time, that he has already faced the Joker, that Robin is probably dead… this is not the grounded or older Batman of the Chris Nolan trilogy but a pessimist and angry Batman. Into this comes Superman and the all context of him being a God. The theme here is not about Superman being an alien (as in “Man of Steel”), rather it’s about him being a God, a savior for mankind. And that’s where the whole question of is he really a God, or a Devil hiding behind the mask of a God, or even of whether he is a False God (i.e. one that can bleed, a reference to the Persian King and the scene from “300”) comes in. I missed all of this the first time. The references to the False God, the painting in Lex’s office, a lot of Greek references, the amazing scenes such as the one in Mexico on the Day of the Dead or even when Superman is dead and everyone’s holding his body… this movie is all about the scenes, the “cinema” itself than just characters or a story… it’s Greek drama on the big screen with larger than life characters. God vs Man after all!

Back to what I was saying: this is an inbetween movie. It’s a part of the overall arc that would have been but now wouldn’t happen (because it’s canceled). There’s Darksied, there’s a the evil Superman, there’s all that stuff which would have come out if the studio would have just stuck with it… and then when we watch “Batman vs Superman”‘in the entirety of that storyline it would make a lot more sense too. That’s not going to happen unfortunately and even the “Justice League” movie has a different tone from what I remember… our loss! Cheers to Zack Snyder though for creating this one. It’s worth every scene!

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam

Saw this one today. 

  • Great songs by A.R. Rahman.
    • But not integrated well into the movie. They distract from the movie than add to it. Most of them seem like they are placed just because we have to place the songs somewhere. 
    • DIdn’t like the background score much either.
  • The story seemed kind of directionless. It was marketed as a violent thriller of 3 sons fighting for their fathers’ empire. That fight doesn’t start until after the intermission, and even then we don’t really care for it.
  • The women seem to be there just for skin. Except Jyothika who has somewhat of a role, the rest are wasted. Which sucks coz they seemed interesting and just ignoring them for the three men didn’t do justice for them. 
  • Good to see Aravind Swamy after a long time! 

That’s it really. It was an ok 2.5 hours. I could have spent it watching something else more worth my time I guess … but ah well, Mani Rathnam movie, I wanted to watch it … and even though I was bored I kept on in the hopes that things might turn out to be interested. (Hint: they didn’t!). 

Nightflyers

Been kind of binge watching “Nightflyers” on Netflix. The show doesn’t make much sense to me, and all the characters are kind of weird / dumb and yet I am intrigued and keep watching. There’s probably a better way to spend 10 hours of my life than watching this, but I dunno … part of me wants to see where this goes. I guess it’s because the show began on a high note, with one of the characters killing others (killing everyone maybe?) and so I want to know how that came to be. But I just can’t make sense of the actions of the characters. There’s just a lot of things – alien race, some Teke energy, some humans called L’s, computers, virtual reality, a girl who can plug into computers … it’s like someone decided to blend all these together and see what comes out of it. There’s not story or direction as such. It’s just going somewhere and the only thing keeping me interested is why the killings in the beginning happened, and that maybe all these irrational behavior is due to the alien Volcryn influence. If I had to pick a crew for an alien space expedition, this would definitely not be the bunch I go with. 

I am still very surprised I didn’t just dump it. Goes to tell how a suspenseful beginning can keep you hooked. Maybe that was the idea of the writers too. :) 

I ditched “Titans” after about 4-5 episodes. It was similarly pointless and I stopped caring for the characters. 

Speaking of stuff worth spending time on though, I loved this podcast interview with M. Night Shyamalan. I love M. Night Shyamalan movies, and I especially loved “Unbreakable”. To me, “Unbreakable” is a story idea that I had (seriously) but much much much better executed by M. Night. For me it was just a cool idea in my head of how the world might be, but seeing it on screen was just magical. I didn’t know the movie didn’t fare that well until recently though. For me “Unbreakable” and “Signs” are two of M. Night Shyamalan’s best movies (and top in my list of favorite movies). Both are kind of similar in one level – faith, reason, why – but very different too. I haven’t seen his “The Visit”, so got to watch that now. I dunno how but I missed that out (well I know how, I lost interest in his movies after “The Last Airbender” and that TV show me made – “Wayward Pines”). 

Another good podcast episode I listened to recently is this interview with Christina Warren. I had previously heard Christina on the TWiT but this was my first time hearing her being interviewed and it was a fun episode. I came across some interest Mac app suggestions too from her. 

Quote

Watching “Titans” on Netflix. It’s a bit of a drag but every time I think I will stop after this episode they introduce some nugget or the other (like the two Robins in episode 5) and keeps me hooked. It’s no “Daredevil” by any means more like a slightly better version of “Iron Fist”. And it seems so unnecessarily dark, like the writers decided to make it so because that’s just the current trend.

I like the title card – how they change the pictures in the letters to match the themes of the episode. Nice touch.

A good quote from episode 6, by Machiavelli.

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared. Severities should be dealt out all at once, so that their suddenness may give less offense; benefits ought to be handed ought drop by drop, so that they may be relished the more.

Badhaai Ho!

2019! Yay. 

Saw “Badhaai Ho” yesterday. Nice to see touching performances from yesteryear actors like Neena Gupta and Surekha Sikri. It’s a good story too, predictable as one would expect, but well taken with not too much drama except what you’d expect and sign up for when deciding to watch such a movie. :) 

Unforgettable moment from the movie: hospital scene when a random stranger turns to Ayushman and asks “Malayali aano?”. Got to be a mallu to get that joke, it was hilarious and totally unexpected!

Watched “Teeefa in Trouble” after that. Eugh, not that great. I am a fan of Ali Zafar and was hoping for more. It’s not a bad movie … just not great! Maya Ali is fun to watch. Predictable plot again, but well taken and so can watch. 

I seem to like one or two good movies; then encounter a dud. Again watch one or two good movies; encounter a dud. One needs a dud now and then to keep things grounded I guess. 

Tumbbad is awesome!

I saw “Tumbbad” recently. Wasn’t aware of this movie until I came across some article on interesting Bollywood movies of 2018 and it mentioned “Andhadhun”, “Tumbbad”, “Stree”, and others. 

I had seen “Andhadhun” last week (forgot to blog about it, damn!) so I gave “Tumbbad” a shot. It’s a horror movie, and very well taken at that. It’s not horror based on special effects or just trying to be creepy by sudden appearances etc. There’s a story and they have taken it well. It’s a simple story and one that says with you for a while. Definitely watch this movie if you haven’t yet! 

Might as well talk about “Andhadhun” here. This is a Sriram Raghavan movie (nothing more needs to be said; except for “Agent Vinod” and “Badlapur” (which wasn’t as gory as I hoped it would be) I have been a huge fan of all his movies (“Johnny Gaddar” being my favorite, and now “Andhadhun”). Starring Ayushman Khurrana as a blind pianist who happens to witness a murder, this is every bit a Sriram Raghavan movie as his other best work. To top things you have some amazing music by Amit Trivedi both in terms of songs and background music (the piano plays a huge role in this movie). Watch this if you are a fan of Sriram Raghavan movies or like stuff like “Fargo” – you won’t regret it!

I also saw “Stree”, which was fine. It’s a fun horror flick which is neither too much fun nor too much horror. Would have been better if it was more horror than fun, but well … can’t do much now. This was the weakest of the three movies.  Except for one bit where they make fun of the ghost regarding its IQ and obedience etc., there is nothing too memorable about this movie. 

Poirot, unpacked

Jeez I had high hopes for “The ABC Murders”. It was one of my favorite Poirot stories and well John Malkovich is playing Poirot so it must be exciting right?

Nope!

All of Poirot’s backstories and mannerisms and character are removed. This is a Poirot TV show the way “Elementary” is a Sherlock Holmes TV show. You don’t really want to see it!

This Poirot has a goatee! *horror* No mustache, can you believe that! He starts off coloring his mustaches black, which I think the “real” Poirot too used to do… but this one has the colors dripping off his face. He is sad, a lost cause. Cops hate him, he has no purpose. There’s a lot of flashbacks to some mysterious and sad past… which turns out be even more disappointing as guess what this Poirot wasn’t even a celebrated Belgian cop! Jeez.

The murders and plot are faithful to the book but it’s not much fun to watch. Everything’s so sad and gloomy. Poirot doesn’t even use his “little gray cells” anywhere. The ABC killer is kind of given to him in his lap. And there’s no explanation given behind how he found the actual murdered either. Eugh!

Of course, watch it coz anyone would be curious to see it considering it’s Poirot. But don’t expect much. Maybe go listen to a Poirot audiobook to cleanse yourself after this! (After watching an episode of “Elementary” I went back and re-watched an episode of “Sherlock” just to forget “Elementary”).

I liked something Poirot says in the end. We have a tendency to characterize the current age as dark or more evil that the olden times. That’s not really true. There was a lot of cruelty in the past too. In fact I was reading a book “1000 years of annoying the French” and also recently I visited Tbilisi, Georgia and was reading about their history… there was a lot more war and violence in the past. There is a lot of it now too but saying that the present is worse than the past is just romanticizing the past. There’s always been evil in the world – it’s Humans. We are just bad and wicked. (And this is me channeling a lot of “Westworld” too into everything else! :)).

Speaking of TV shows checkout “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” if you get a a chance. Good stuff! Or if you want murder mysteries set in cold and lonely country check out “Shetland”. Excellent stuff!

Westworld

I re-binge-watched Westworld Season 1 last week, so I could start watching Season 2, and binge-watched Season 2 the past few days. Amazing stuff as expected! Like chocolate cream for the mind. 

I was already blown away by Season 1 when I watched it two years ago so re-watching it wasn’t a surprise, but I didn’t have too high hopes for Season 2 as many shows have a good first season and then mess it up in the second or third seasons. Season 2 of Westworld seemed to start off that way with too many action sequences and fighting but it all made sense as one went along and things started to get very interesting from around Episode 3 (the one with The Raj). The only sort of boring episode for me was Episode 8, which was about the Indians and their visions, but it too was a good episode and I have no complaints or anything. 

It’s amazing how Westworld touches a lot of topics like visions, heaven/ hell, fate, God, AI, humans vs. robots, slavery, afterlife, computers … a whole bunch of topics that seem unrelated on the surface of it but which you can connect like the writers of Westworld did. I liked the Episode 8 with Indians for this – how they explained their visions and goals, which are different to everyone else, in the context of Westworld. 

Every episode somehow managed to be more human by going more into the backstory of the characters and yet also very Westworld-y with all the topics the show handles. I didn’t expect the “twist” in the last episode. I was expecting something, and I was expecting Bernard to be in the centre of it, but boy they took things to a different level! I never had so much fun with an unreliable narrator, or generally being confused but knowing there’s a reason behind it all! (And that’s another good thing about Westworld. Unlike other shows of a similar nature, they don’t leave anything hanging. You know that by the last episode things will make sense … there’s nothing left unanswered). 

Over all, a great show. Think Matrix (the first movie) and the way you mind opened up when you watched it. That’s Westworld, over two seasons. You get a similar mind opening at the end of each season with some bits and pieces sprinkled across the episodes. Season 2 especially, I get the feeling the writers had a lot of fun with the characters, the music, the camera world (the whole Shogun World piece is so darn creative!). Season 2 is lighter on content than Season 1 so they had to stretch things a bit I think, but it was fun the way they did it and I enjoyed it a whole lot. :)

Vocal Harmonizing

A few days ago I was listening to “Agar Tum Saath Ho” from the excellent movie “Tamashaa” and noticed for the first time (yeah after nearly 2-3 years of regularly listening to that song coz it is one of my favorites!) that Arijith has someone else singing along with him in the background. I had previously seen A.R. Rahman employ this in other favorites of mine like “Piya Haji Ali” (from the otherwise unremarkable “Fiza”) and also “Noon-Un-Ala-Noor” (from the artsy-but-worth-a-watch “Meenaxi”). But in both these cases I knew you the background singer was – it was obvious from the artists section of the song. But with “Agar Tum Saath Ho” I never noticed this other singer until a few days ago when I kind of slept in my bus ride home listening to this song on loop, and I think my mind just relaxed and stopped thinking other stuff … it just soaked in the song, was in the moment so to say, and I heard the other singer as obvious as anything else.

Turns out this other singer was Arijith himself, but in a different pitch (thanks Quora) and this technique is called vocal harmonizing. Nice, I didn’t know of this.

While typing this post I was post I was listening to “Aanandhame” from the movie “Aravindante Athithikal” (which I previously mentioned, I love its songs) and noticed that it too employs something similar. While Anne Amie is the primary voice, you can also hear Vineeth Sreenivasan lightly in the background singing along with her. Adds a lot of the feel of the song.

Speaking of “Aravindante Athithikal”, a lovely first half a very draggy second half. Wish the movie had just stuck on with the theme of first half or concluded there if it had nothing more to say. The second half would even have been fine if it didn’t drag so much towards the end about finding the mother!

The music of “Aravindante Athidhikal”

Once in a while you come across an album where pretty much every song is amazing. “Aravindante Athidhikal” is one such. The first time I heard it I wasn’t impressed. But the next day I found myself humming some of the tunes and went back and listened to the songs again … and been listening to them again and again since then! :) It’s like falling in love with A.R. Rahman songs in the past. I’d never like them on the first listen, but would find myself humming the tune later and go back and listen and love it. (Doesn’t happen that way with A.R. Rahman songs nowadays).

The music is by Shaan Rahman. He is a dependable music director. Always delivers. Most of his soundtracks have at least one or two tracks that are amazing.

Special mention: “Kanne Thaai Malare” by Vineeth Sreenivasan. It’s just him accompanied by Shaan Rahman on keyboard. You won’t forget this song/ tune once you hear it! :)

“Blackmail” (Hindi movie) – dark comedy, but …

“Blackmail”, starring Irrfan Khan an directed by Abhinay Deo, tries to be a dark comedy. Something like “Fargo” or most Coen brothers movies. But while the latter movies are coherent in terms of the tone or branding, I found “Blackmail” to be confusing.

At times it does the dark comedy well. But also feels like its trying to be cool and shocking and many other things as well. It’s difficult to put into words what I am trying to say here except that I found the message confusing. The movie started off trying to go with a shock/ comedy factor by showing our hero take photos of his colleague’s wives from their office desks to the bathroom so he can masturbate to them. Then it moved on to his unhappy marriage, and him trying to nice to her one day out of the blue by coming home early and discovering she has an affair. At this point it tries to be something else with the loud background music etc. Then it becomes dark with him trying to blackmail his wife’s lover and the subsequent events that happen as a result of that. But while a movie or TV show like “Fargo” sticks to that theme and shows how things can go wrong or the things people can do, that message doesn’t come across clearly in “Blackmail”. I think the writers and director wanted to put across that message but it got muddled with a few other things.

The music and background score were great – Amit Tridevi is unique and amazing as usual! – and yes while they matched the scenes and highlighted the feelings and emotions, I felt they too played a part in detracting from the main theme of “Blackmail”. Not the composer’s fault – I imagine that is what he was asked to provide (the mood I mean) and so he delivered.

Overall, a good movie, worth a watch – I’d give it a 3.5 or 4 /5, but it could easily have been a 5/5 if the mood or message part was sorted. I wish it had been a 5/5 – I had great hopes for it when I realized that after finding his wife having an affair our hero was going to blackmail the lover. So much potential, so many things that can go wrong (and they did) … amazing!

Weekend movie updates

Stuff I saw this weekend. :)

Safe

Created by author Harlan Cobden (whose books I haven’t read) and starring Michael C Hall of Dexter fame (ooh loved that!). Not a murder mystery, rather a “girl runs away from home, now why did she do that mystery” meets “father searching for his presumed missing daughter and won’t stop at anything until he finds her thriller”. It was fine. Not amazing or anything but not bad either. The finale was a bit rushed and didn’t explain some of the plot points (esp. who ransacked the Chahal family house) and the explain was a bit stretched as to the sequence of events that led to the girl running away – but well, worth a watch. Beware of all the red herrings though! Too many of them, and it’s irritating.

Ready Player One

Based on the book (which I didn’t enjoy). Good movie. Again, nothing too great (coz I am not into gaming I guess) but a fun watch and one of the better movies I have seen recently. Keeps you hooked and all the special effects and stuff is amazing.

Ordeal by Innocence

Based on the Agatha Christie book (which I haven’t read, but will do now) and starring Bil Nighy, Matthew Goode etc. – a nice old fashioned murder mystery, set in an England of old. I am curious how the book is coz this seems to be a very complicated book and it’s commendable that it got adapted for the screen, so I wonder how the original material was. This was the last show I saw this weekend and it was a pleasure.